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As it’s built to run on small screens like the one on your smartwatch, Google’s Wear OS has to work quickly and intuitively—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some cool and clever tricks to the software, once you dig a little deeper into the settings and menus.

As is the case with Android phones, different Wear OS watches have interfaces and menus that differ from device to device. My tips for using the operating system to do more with your smartwatch are based on the capabilities of the Pixel Watch 2, but they should apply to other Wear OS watches too, even if the screens look slightly different.

Pin your favorite apps

You don’t have much room to work with on a watch screen, so you need to make sure you’re making the most of it—and that might include creating shortcuts to your most-used apps. Unfortunately, while app pinning used to be a native Wear OS feature, it isn’t any more.

Enter Tile App Launcher. It’s a simple to use, free tool that creates a new tile filled with shortcuts to the apps of your choice. This means you’re able to swipe left or right on the watch face to get to the apps you need more quickly, without opening up the app list at all.

2. Shorten the screen timeout delay

There are a number of ways to get more time between charges on your smartwatch with Wear OS. One of them is to set the screen dim more quickly when you’re not using your watch. To do this, open Settings in the main app list, choose Display, and then Screen timeout.

The default recommended delay is 15 seconds, but you can lower it to 10 seconds to save a bit of battery life, or increase it to 30 seconds if you find the display is always turning itself off before you’ve had a chance to get a good look at what’s on the screen.

Wear OS

Setting the timeout delay and connecting earbuds.
Credit: Lifehacker

3. Pair some wireless earbuds

If you want to head out for a morning jog with just your smartwatch, you can connect a pair of wireless earbuds to your wearable. In the Settings app, tap Connectivity, then Bluetooth, and Pair new device. Select your Bluetooth headphones from the list of nearby items.

If you then sync some songs, podcasts, or audiobooks to the watch, you can listen on the go through your smartwatch, without relying on your phone. You’ll find quite a few media player apps for Wear OS that are able to do this, including Spotify, YouTube Music, and Pocket Casts.

4. Take a photo from your watch

Your Wear OS can act as a helpful remote control for your phone’s camera, as long as it’s connected over Bluetooth—no more having to use the timer function and hoping that everyone is correctly positioned in the frame for those posed group shots.

All you need to do is choose Camera from the app list to see what your phone camera is seeing, right on your wrist. Tap the three lines at the top to switch between photo modes and the front and back cameras on your phone, and tap the shutter button to take a snap.

5. Keep notifications in sync

Life is already distracting enough, so you probably don’t want the same notifications pinging both your watch and your phone—or maybe you do, for whatever reason. Either way, Wear OS gives you the choice via the Watch app on your phone.

Open up Notifications from the app front page, and you can toggle both Mute watch notifications (your watch won’t be pinged while you’re actively on your phone) and Mute notifications (your phone won’t be pinged as long as you’re wearing your smartwatch).

Wear OS

Adjusting vibrations and finding a phone.
Credit: Lifehacker

6. Customize watch vibrations

Your smartwatch is most likely using vibrations to tell you when notifications have arrived, and Wear OS lets you customize how they work. You can make them more (or less) discreet, and maybe save a bit of battery life as well, if you tone them down slightly.

From Settings in the app list, pick Vibration. From here, you can then change the vibration strength for alarms, calls, and notifications, as well as turn vibrations off completely. There’s also a toggle switch for disabling vibrations when you’re not actually wearing the watch.

7. Find your smartphone

As long as you’ve got your watch strapped to your wrist, you can use it to find a linked Android smartphone that’s gone astray. For this to work, your phone must be powered on, connected to your wearable via Bluetooth, and within Bluetooth range (30 feet or so).

Swipe down on the main watch face, then tap the find my phone icon—it’s the one that looks like a cell phone with a sound coming out of it. Your phone will sound an alert, even if it’s muted. To stop the alert, tap the X on your watch or unlock the phone once you’ve found it.

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